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Friday, January 20, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-20-2017

Marshalltown [Iowa] Times-Republican, January 20, 1917:

Vic Saiere [sic], first baseman of the Chicago Nationals, whose sight was thought to be failing him, has assured President Weegham [sic] of the Chicago club that his eyes have regained their normal strength after a winter’s rest.

Saier is a movie fan and the theory was that he had damaged his eyes watching the flickering light on the screen and sitting up late reading. He avoided any strain whatever during the winter months and now believes he is as good as ever.

Unfortunately, Saier didn’t get much of a chance to show whether his eyes had recovered. He broke his leg a week into the 1917 season and was out for the year, then missed all of 1918 working for the war effort instead of playing baseball.

When Saier returned in 1919, he struggled badly, but there’s no way to know whether that was a result of his eyes, his leg, the time away from baseball, or something else.

Elsewhere in the newspapers of January 20, 1917, Giants executive John Foster seems unconcerned about a possible strike because major league teams can just use replacement players.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 20, 2017 at 10:04 AM | 25 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-19-2017

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, January 19, 1917:

Ray Schalk, catcher of the Chicago Americans, signed a 1917 contract [last night], in defiance of the orders issued by [players’ fraternity president] Fultz. He said he had received an increase in salary and had no reason to hold out.

Washington Times, January 19, 1917:

[Cubs pitcher] Al Demaree is out with a protest against the Fraternity leader’s making the Chicago National League club a goat in the troubles now facing magnate and player.

“The action of Fultz in calling the strike on February 20, the day the Cubs are to report,” says Demaree, “makes the Chicago club and its players the targets…Nor is it fair to discriminate against President Weeghman. He’s a fine man and has gone to a lot of expense in giving the players this trip to California…”

Also in the Washington Times 100 years ago today:

[Washington] Manager Griffith admits one of his regular players has signed his 1917 contract.
...
“My players joined the fraternity because the others were doing it, but not one had his heart in the scheme.”

Drip…drip…drip…

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 19, 2017 at 10:35 AM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history, labor relations

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On the Polo Grounds: When Fans Were Fans

My friend Richard Hershberger called this antique article to my attention the other day, as he does every now and then. (Six months ago he had sent me another such story, which I happily posted here: https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/lovers-and-cranks-a7117d85dcad#.g32oxjw87.) No one is a better researcher into the early days of the game than Richard, and no one loves a word picture of a day at the ballpark more than he does, unless it is me. Of the story below, published in the Philadelphia Times of July 3, 1887, he writes:
“Take a look at the attached file. It is a word picture of the Polo Grounds from 1887. This is right up your alley, and complements the 1884 piece from the NY Sun via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This time it is from my new best friend, the Philadelphia Times. Nice touches include the description of ticket scalpers and how the Giants were cheerfully breaking both New York City and National League law by selling beer.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 18, 2017 at 06:11 PM | 41 comment(s)
  Beats: history

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-18-2017

Tacoma Times, January 18, 1917:

Ty Cobb, Detroit slugger, speed merchant, said but two words in defining his stand on the baseball strike situation. “I’m neutral,” said the Georgia peach, in a telegram to a St. Louis sport editor today. He had been asked whether he would join the Tigers on their spring training jaunt or line up with Dave Fultz in the proposed strike.

Washington Herald, January 18, 1917:

The tip was out, but could not be confirmed, that [AL president] Ban Johnson and [AFL president] Samuel Gompers were as close as Damon and Pythias. Indeed, it was said unofficially that Johnson held a contract that bound the federation not to butt into baseball.

This contract was subscribed to by the union heads some years ago as a means of settling a labor strike that arose in connection with the building of the Cleveland American League Club grandstand. The unions of the Middle West have been going strong for the American League for some time.

This is obviously 20/20 hindsight on my part, but it’s almost like the entire universe was jumping up and down, screaming and waving red flags, trying to tell union head Dave Fultz not to call a strike.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 18, 2017 at 09:48 AM | 16 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history, labor relations

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-17-2017

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, January 17, 1917:

David L. Fultz, president of the Baseball Players’ Fraternity, [yesterday] set February 20 as the date the players’ strike is likely to become effective.
...
[Fultz:] “If the present baseball tangle is not straightened out by that time…not one of the 18 leading members of the [Cubs will report to spring training]...The other clubs, who had unsigned fraternity players, will be up against a similar situation when they order mobilization at the training camps. The players simply will not budge.”

Cubs pitcher Al Demaree on a Fultz’s strike threat:

“All I can say is that we pledged our loyalty to Fultz and the fraternity. We would be poor fraternity members if we didn’t. I shall not say a word about Fultz’s letter, for I was not authorized to make it public.

Tepid support from Demaree. Following this story is like watching a slow motion trainwreck.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 17, 2017 at 10:22 AM | 15 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history, labor relations

Monday, January 16, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-16-2017

Bridgeport Evening Farmer, January 16, 1917:

Baseball is to be unionized. The [ballplayers’] fraternity, through its President, David L. Fultz, applied in Washington, D.C., for a charter from the American Federation of Labor. Samuel Gompers, President of the Federation…said there was no doubt that the fraternity would be admitted to membership.

Tacoma Times, January 16, 1917:

The entire Boston Red Sox baseball club will go on strike if Dave Fultz, head of the baseball players’ fraternity says the word, in the opinion of Duffy Lewis, star outfielder.

An anonymous player quoted in the Washington Times, January 16, 1917:

“We are not fairly represented in all statements sent out from fraternity headquarters…Major league players did not pledge themselves to a sympathetic strike in the interests of minor league men. We agreed not to sign contracts until the major leagues eliminated disability clauses. That has been done. We have no further quarrel.”

We know how this situation played out, but in retrospect, it seems pretty apparent that Fultz should have had some idea that he was overplaying his hand.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 16, 2017 at 07:31 AM | 25 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history, labor relations

Friday, January 13, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-13-2017

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, January 13, 1917:

Threats of David L. Fultz, president of the Baseball Players’ Fraternity, to call a strike of between 600 and 700 players unless their demands are granted before the beginning of the 1917 season were answered by B.B. Johnson, president of the American League, here [last night].
...
“We never again will listen to any proposal he may offer,” President Johnson said. “We invite him to carry out his bluff…The American League will see that Fultz is crushed; driven out of baseball.

Ouch. Fultz did indeed call for a strike, but you can probably guess how well that worked out.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 13, 2017 at 09:33 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history, labor relations, union

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-12-2017

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, January 12, 1917:

Bill Fischer, who is expected to do a large share of the Pirate catching next season, is going about things in a manner suggesting he intends to be Callahan’s first-string maskman.
...
The former Cub has taken on 14 pounds since he put away his glove and mask and he takes his gain in weight as an indication that he will have a successful season, barring accidents.

“In 1915,” says Fischer, “I reported 10 pounds overweight and had my best season. I had only a few pounds to work off when I reported to the Cubs last spring, and did not feel as strong as I wished. It makes me happy to think I will have so much to work down when the training bell sounds.

It’s the rarely-seen “He’s in the worst shape of his life” offseason report. Fischer actually did have a good year in 1917, hitting .286/.359/.376 (122 OPS+), but for whatever reason he never again played in the major leagues.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 12, 2017 at 10:32 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-11-2017

Joe Tinker tells a story about Larry McLean, Seattle Star, January 11, 1917:

“McLean caught the Sunday games. Then he went to a party. He did not report Monday at all. Tuesday morning he was a sight.”
...
[After a foul tip broke replacement catcher Clark Griffith’s finger in the first inning of the first game of a Tuesday doubleheader,] “Griffith had no one to put in but McLean. To my dying day I will remember how McLean looked as he came across the field. He fell over his protector three times before reaching the plate.”
...
[After the first game,] “McLean went across the street, had a few drinks and came back for the afternoon melee.”
...
“He was dripping perspiration as he came off the field [after the second game]. ‘Well, Joe,’ he called out to me, ‘I guess the big fellow’s better drunk than most of the boys are sober.’”

McLean was the very definition of a functional alcoholic. He was a pretty good ballplayer who put up 11.1 career WAR and was the Giants’ best position player in the 1913 World Series.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 11, 2017 at 10:50 AM | 17 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history, larry mclean

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-10-2017

Topeka State Journal, January 10, 1917:

Joe Wood’s claim that he is a free agent, under the operation of the reserve clause in his contract, since he signed no contract last year, may furnish an interesting test of the theory advanced by the lawyers of organized ball in the famous suit before Judge Landis. The Boston club claims Wood under reserve and says he will be sent a contract, whereupon Wood, if reports are correct, will repudiate it and demand his unconditional release.

The Sox sold Smoky Joe to Cleveland a few weeks later for $15,000. My suspicion is that the reserve clause dispute had something to do with Boston making that trade, but I don’t know for sure. It could just be that someone was offering them $15,000 for a broken pitcher.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 10, 2017 at 10:15 AM | 14 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history, joe wood, reserve clause

Monday, January 09, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-9-2017

The Daily Missoulian, January 9, 1917:

Harry Sinclair, Oklahoma oil magnate, who was prominent in the Federal league in its last days, is the clubless owner, and Tom Seaton, the pitcher, is his property.
...
When the Federal league ceased its existence Sinclair was in possession of several star players. He sold them here and he disposed of them there, and when the time came to close his books Seaton was the only man left. One of the reasons that he couldn’t sell Tom, who had been a star with the Phillies, was that he possessed a contract calling for more than $8,000 a year.

According to this article, the Cubs agreed to take Seaton in 1916 with the understanding that they’d pay $15,000 for his rights if he pitched well. He didn’t, they didn’t, and Sinclair was stuck with Seaton.

I’m not sure how the contract situation played out, but Seaton resurfaced with the 1917 Cubs and pitched reasonably well before being banished to the PCL for the remainder of his career.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 09, 2017 at 10:39 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history

Friday, January 06, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-6-2017

Bridgeport Farmer, January 6, 1917:

While there is little, if any, possibility of a readjustment of the professional baseball diamond as recently suggested by President Percy D. Haughton, of the Boston National league club, the proposed changes…offer a wide field for speculation as to what would be the result if such alterations were made.
...
Haughton suggests that in order to equalize the offensive and defensive strength of the pitcher and batter it might be found advisable, upon investigation, to move first and third bases five feet nearer the home plate and decrease the width of the plate.

If this were done it would change the entire aspect of the baseball diamond which would become, roughly, kite-shaped.

That is the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life, Tom.


Thursday, January 05, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-5-2017

Butte Post, January 5, 1917:

[National commission chairman August “Garry” Herrmann] told how he had the nickname tacked on him.

“I had just been made ‘devil’ in a printing place in Cincinnati,” he explained, “when the newspapers were full of news about Garibaldi, the famous Italian patriot, who was fighting to put Italy in the sun.

“I was short, broad-shouldered and extremely green. The printers at once nicknamed me Garibaldi; in time they shortened it to Garry.”

Thing that doesn’t happen in 2017: Apprentice printers getting nicknames because they remind people of Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 05, 2017 at 07:15 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-4-2017

The Daily Missoulian, January 4, 1917:

UMPIRE CANS WHOLE NINE

Jimmy Murray Puts Entire Ball Team Off Field in One Game.

[After nobody heard Murray call a drive down the line foul, costing Buffalo an apparent home run,] “there was an awful demonstration. A stranger would have thought the inmates of some insane asylum had been turned loose…Before I was able to restore order I found it necessary to tag seven of those Buffalo players with tickets to the clubhouse.”
...
[In the ninth inning of the same game, after Murray called a Toronto runner safe at home because the catcher missed the tag,] “there was another big kick, and this time I was compelled to remove the Buffalo battery, McConnell and Archer. Thus in one game I ejected the entire nine, which, I believe is a world’s record.”

I’ve certainly never heard of that happening before.

Elsewhere in the newspapers of January 4, 1917, the death of Reinder “Rynie” Wolters, Dutch-born 1870s pitcher and (arguably) thrower of the first no-hitter in history, is reported. In virtually every report I have seen, he is referred to as “Reindeer Wolters”, which would have been a pretty great name.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 04, 2017 at 10:54 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history, umpires, umpshow

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-3-2017

Bridgeport Evening Farmer, January 3, 1917:

That certain baseball magnates are considering a plan to utilize their ball parks for professional football and to back financially a league of national proportions next fall is the report brought here from Detroit.
...
The plan involves the organization of a league along the lines of professional baseball…Among the cities mentioned as prospective members of the new league are Chicago, New York, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Columbus. The season would begin at the close of the baseball season and continue as long as the weather was favorable.

Professional football? A national football league? That’s just crazy. It’ll never work.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 03, 2017 at 09:49 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, football, history

Charlie Comiskey

This story by Harvey T. Woodruff, originally headed “Comiskey Plans World Tour,” ran in the Chicago Tribune in 1913. It is of less interest for its headline event than for its profile of one of the most revered, later reviled, and most recently revised life stories in baseball history, that of Charles A. Comiskey, founding owner of today’s Chicago White Sox.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 03, 2017 at 08:28 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: charlie comiskey, history

Friday, December 30, 2016

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 12-30-2016

Chicago Eagle, December 30, 1916:

Connie Mack was catching for the Pirates in 1893 and he roomed with George Moreland when the team was on the road…One night Moreland entered their hotel room before Mack and dug up the latter’s best catching mitt. He started to cut a hole in the center of it, and was still engaged at this task when Mack came in.

“Hey, George, what are you doing?” asked Mack. This was a natural query for a catcher to spring when seeing his best glove being treated in this fashion.

As it turned out, Moreland was installing a bit of webbing in the glove that, when snapped, sounded exactly like a foul tip. According to the article, Mack was able to get away with this for “quite a time”.  (Until 1895, any foul tip caught by the catcher was an immediate out.)

After he was found out, Mack learned to snap his fingers to make it sound like a foul tip. Mr. Mack was a clever guy, always trying to gain an edge.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: December 30, 2016 at 11:59 AM | 18 comment(s)
  Beats: connie mack, dugout, history

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 12-29-2016

Grand Forks Herald, December 29, 1917

Jack Fournier, utility player of the Chicago Americans, has invented an indoor contrivance which he believes will bring back a batting eye, according to a letter received [in Chicago] today.

“I rigged up a batting contrivance in my house,” said the letter, written from Aberdeen, Wash., “and the ball is suspended on a heavy rubber cord. I give the ball a push and then stand in batting position and see how I can drive it. I’ve ruined a perfectly good room with that regulation hose [sic] hide, but if I can hit 300 next season I won’t regret it.”

Jack hit .305 in 1917, but unfortunately for him it was in the PCL. After Fournier’s subpar 1916, the Sox went with Chick Gandil at first base and didn’t have much use for a backup first baseman with a hilariously terrible glove.

Fournier was back in the majors for good in 1920 and hit .324/.401/.507 (144 OPS+) over the next eight seasons, winning the 1924 NL home run crown along the way. I don’t know whether it was his indoor contrivance, but something got his bat going again.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: December 29, 2016 at 10:43 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 12-28-2016

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, December 28, 1916:

Charles (Chick) Evans, Jr., national amateur and open golf champion, is going to teach batting “form” to members of the Chicago National League Club. Evans today accepted he invitation of Charles H. Weeghman, president of the club, to make the spring training trip to Pasadena, Cal.

President Weeghman believes that Evans will be able to improve the batting of every player on the team.

“There is form in the driving of a golf ball,” [Weeghman] said, “but there is none in driving a baseball. Applying the form of golf to baseball was responsible for the wonderful driving power of Frank Schulte and Heinie Zimmerman.

Having a golfer teach baseball swings seems like something that, at best, would be completely useless. But I guess hitting coaches hadn’t become a thing yet.

As weird crossovers from other sports go, I’m still partial to ‘Tom House having his pitchers throw footballs’.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: December 28, 2016 at 10:27 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 12-27-2016

Washington Herald, December 27, 1916:

Tom Hughes, known to the local followers of baseball a few years ago as the “iron man” of the Nationals, denies the story that he has quit baseball and is one of Salt Lake City’s “finest”.
...
In this letter Tom denies a great many of the “fairy stories” that have been printed about him recently. The “Tighten-up” wizzard [sic] claims that he was never kidnapped by any Cleveland gamblers…He also claims that he was never left in [Salt Lake City] by any manager who he played under for breaking the training rules.

Back in 1912, Long Tom told the (almost certainly false) story of the time he was nearly decapitated in a manhole cover explosion. There was never any shortage of fiction surrounding Tom Hughes.

Also in the Washington Herald 100 years ago today, an article about the Tigers releasing Jean Dubuc, whose pitching arsenal is described as having “a slow ball, one a trifle slower, and still one slower yet”. It makes him sound like a proto-Jamie Moyer.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: December 27, 2016 at 09:58 AM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, history, long tom hughes

Friday, December 23, 2016

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 12-23-2016

Pittsburgh Press, December 23, 1916:

Dutch Leonard has invested most of his money in California plum orchards, and is reaping substantial dividends through the sale of prunes. There are some “prunes” in baseball, but that is no fault of Leonard’s.

Leonard made millions of dollars growing plums and grapes, which is millions more than the number of friends he made in baseball. Dutch was almost universally hated by players and umpires, to the point where his own manager (Ty Cobb) intentionally overused him in what appears to have been an effort to destroy Leonard’s career.

Cobb eventually released Leonard in 1925 and went out of his way to make sure nobody else claimed him. Perhaps coincidentally (but probably not), early in 1926 Leonard came forward with allegations that Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Joe Wood had fixed a game in 1919. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the gambling allegation were true, but Leonard absolutely had a motive to end Cobb’s career.

(Hat tip to the excellent SABR Bio of Leonard, written by David Jones.)

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: December 23, 2016 at 10:39 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, dutch leonard, history

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 12-22-2016

Washington Times, December 22, 1916:

[Gavy Cravath] tells this [story] on himself:

“Every year since I have been playing ball in the East, I have spent my winters in California. I generally land there in November, and lead the simple life for about three months. But I have always been a mystery to the nice old lady who boards me.

“Last winter she was entertaining a caller who made some inquiries about me.

“‘I don’t know much about Mr. Cravath,’ my landlady confided to her caller. ‘He goes away every spring and doesn’t come back until fall. I never heard of him working, yet he always wears good clothes. I do hope he is in some honest business.’”

I guess she wasn’t a baseball fan.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: December 22, 2016 at 09:46 AM | 39 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, gavvy cravath, history

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 12-21-2016

Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 21, 1916:

PITCHER RUTH OF RED SOX INJURED AS AUTOS CRASH

Word reached [Baltimore] last night of a serious automobile smash-up in Boston in which Babe Ruth, the left hander whose sensational pitching for the Red Sox won him great renown, and his wife figured. While the big fellow escaped with a few cuts and bruises, Mrs. Ruth had to be removed to a Boston hospital.
...
Babe and his wife were enjoying the comforts of a recently purchased machine in a suburb of the Hub when it collided with another automobile. The impact was terrific and Mrs. Ruth was pitched into the roadway.

The mind boggles at how different baseball history would have been if this accident had been worse.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: December 21, 2016 at 10:14 AM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: babe ruth, dugout, history

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 12-20-2016

Washington Herald, December 20, 1916:

Pat Moran, Eddie Burns, Sherwood Magee, Chief Bender and other ball tossers who have been spending the off-season in Philadelphia have been watching football closely.
...
All these stars agreed that a football player who also played baseball in the spring made the best receiver of forward passes.

There is some history of crossover between baseball players and receivers.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: December 20, 2016 at 11:14 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: dugout, football, history

Monday, December 19, 2016

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 12-19-2016

New York World, December 19, 1916:

Not only is there a chance of [the Schedule Committee] shortening the playing season to 140 games, but it is within their power—such authority having been given to them—to arrange an interleague series of games beginning the latter part of August.
...
The plan contemplates having all eight clubs in the National League play all eight clubs in the American League three or more games. The winner, under one of the arrangements, is to be considered the champion of the world.

Another variation is for the pennant to be decided in each league, and then have a world’s series after the interleague games are finished. Still another suggestion is for the winner of the interleague games to be entered in a world’s series which will be three cornered.

“That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life, Tom.”

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: December 19, 2016 at 10:15 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: bad ideas, dugout, history, terrible ideas

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